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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,974
June 20, 2019
Why Go To Marriage Encounter?
By Mike McManus

It is June - the wedding month!  However, a wedding is but a day, but marriage is for a lifetime.

Will those getting married have a higher rate of success than America's 50% divorce
rate, which has been in place for four decades? Probably not - unless the couple takes steps to build a strong relationship.

Unfortunately, most unmarried couples are taking the wrong step of living together. Last year 9 million couples were cohabiting. But there were only 2.2 million marriages. Even though 59% of those who married were living together, that's only 1.3 million of the 9 million cohabiting couples.

What happened to the other 7.7 million couples? Most continued to live together, but broke up after 22 months, on average. And those who marry after living together are more likely to divorce.

In fact, there were more marriages in 1970 (2,169,000) than in 2015 (2,077,000) - 45 years later. To put it differently, there's been a 63% decline in America's marriage rate.
Even so, half of America's marriages continue to fail.

What can a couple do to strengthen their marriage, add joy, reduce friction - and build it to last??

Attend a Marriage Encounter, a weekend retreat designed to help couples fall back in love.

After my wife and I had been married about a decade, we began hearing about Marriage Encounter from couples at church. They told us, "Marriage Encounter makes a good marriage better."

I said to Harriet, "Let's go. It sounds great."

But she was not interested. She felt we had grown apart. "I felt you were married to your work, and I was married to my children. You went to New York City, worked late, and then you wrote all weekend.

"I was carpooling our kids to school and all the after-school activities - Little League, music lessons, etc. We were married singles, leading separate lives under the same roof. You were not an attentive father or a caring husband. "

She thought Marriage Encounter would be a waste of time.

Fortunately we did go, but I was dumbfounded by her criticisms. When she said I was not a caring husband or an attentive father, I had no defense, and pled guilty as charged. She said I was a workaholic, totally devoted to my career.

However, I promised to be more attentive to her and to help out more with our three sons. I had no criticisms of her, whatsoever.

She recalled tonight - 40 years later - "We fell back in love that weekend." And I personally developed a deep interest in how marriages could be improved.

It might be helpful to describe what the weekend is like. Ten to 25 attending couples go to a motel for a weekend. Their first meeting is Friday night. It continues all day Saturday and through Sunday afternoon.

Three lead couples tell stories of their own marriages and then ask attending couples to write "love letters" to their spouse on assigned topics. One was, "Recall a time when we had an especially memorable moment together - a high point of the marriage."

Others were more challenging. "What is a topic that I have difficulty in talking to you about?"

We were told to go to our motel rooms, write for 10 minutes and then read what each other had written, and dialogue for 10 minutes about it. These were called "10 and 10s" by the Marriage Encounter leaders.

Harriet recalled tonight, "We fell back in love that weekend."

We did indeed. Thank God, and Marriage Encounter!

The good news is that 1.3 million American couples have attended Marriage Encounter, plus another 300,000 couples in Europe.

Sadly, however, the number of attendees has fallen sharply in recent years. Catholics led 504 weekends last year and various Protestant denominations organized only 57 weekends. A total of only 7,500 couples attended.

To learn more - particularly when upcoming weekends are scheduled go to http://www.wwme.org or send an email to media@wwme.org.

Every marriage deserves a Marriage Encounter weekend to fall back in love!

__________________________

Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. To read past columns, go to www.ethicsandreligion.com. Hit Search for any topic.

 

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